26 Jan Worth the Effort
What is it like to adopt a dog that does have baggage? Dani Dwyer – Willingham founder of Conscious Canines tells us..
What is it like to rescue a dog with PTSD?
At the time we rescued him, Lincoln was only around 7/8 months old, and undiagnosed. He was a shut down, scared little puppy, but he was projected to make a “normal” recovery by the rescue organization. I knew he would probably take a little more time to adjust, but I fell in love with him and wanted to give him the chance I knew he deserved. It wasn’t until he was almost 3 years old that he was diagnosed with PTSD, after having developed severe symptoms despite our best efforts at traditional training. Now, we work with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist to make sure he’s on the medications he needs to support chemical balance, and we switched to positive reinforcement training which has truly made all the difference in his progress and rehabilitation!
How is life with Lincoln now?
What can I say? Lincoln is a special dog who makes my heart explode with love and joy on a daily basis. Life with him requires constant management, awareness, patience, and compassion. He’s not your average “friends with everyone” guy. He loves other dogs and women, but he’s severely afraid of strange men, so he only meets up to two new people at a time, in a very calm, positive, structured way. Things like going out of town may take a bit more effort because he can’t be left at a boarding facility (instead we have another trainer stay with him at our home when we travel), but any extra time or money is worth it to me to make sure he’s comfortable, balanced, and happy.
I’m not one to anthropomorphize dogs, but he has become one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had. Seeing him grow and start to blossom over the years has changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. I absolutely, completely credit him for being my inspiration to become a certified positive reinforcement trainer, and to dedicating my career to rehabilitating dogs like him who have suffered trauma and abuse. I wouldn’t change the relationship I have with Lincoln now for anything in the world.
What inspires you most about rescue?
Honestly, everything! Having the opportunity to save an entire life (or even more than one) can’t be categorized as anything but a blessing. Rescue dogs have so much love to give, and so much gratitude. Seeing the face of a dog who’s been taken out of a shelter and saved is truly priceless. Even though I rescued a dog who has an actual mental disorder (and I don’t regret it for a moment), the percentage of dogs with “problems” in shelters is so little. Most rescues are even healthier than dogs from a breeder as mixes don’t tend to carry hereditary defects, and many are just as, if not more, well-socialized and friendly than the average purchased pet.
The rescue community also inspires me, by how dedicated and committed they are. People who are doing the dirty work, the saving, the fostering, the volunteering, the advocating…I love being surrounded by those people. They’re some of the most compassionate, loving humans you’ll meet. And I think that’s why once rescue hooks you, you’re in for life. The only downside to rescuing is that after doing so, you’ll be hopelessly attached to a dog you’ll never want to live without!